Page images
PDF
EPUB

Market street wharf, near the boat I came in, to which I went for a draught of the river water; and, being filled with one of my rolls, gave the other two to a woman and her child that came down the river in the boat with us, and were waiting to go farther

Thus refreshed, I walked again up the street, which by this time had many clean-dressed people in it, who were all walking the same way. I joined them, and thereby was led into the great meetinghouse of the Quakers near the market. I sat down among them, and, after looking round awhile and hearing nothing said, and being very drowsy through labor and want of rest the preceding night, I fell fast asleep, and continued so till the meeting broke up, when one was kind enough to rouse me. This was therefore, the first house I was in, or slept in, in Philadelphia.

Walking down again toward the river, and, looking in the faces of people, I met a young Quaker man, whose countenance I liked, and, accosting him, requested he would tell me where a stranger could get lodging. We were then near the sign of the Three Mariners. 'Here,' says he, 'is one place that entertains strangers, but it is not a reputable house; if thee wilt walk with me, I'll show thee a better.' He brought me to the Crooked Billet in Water street. Here I got a dinner; and, while I was eating it, several sly questions were asked me, as it seemed to be suspected from my youth and appearance, that I might be some runaway.

After dinner, my sleepiness returned, and being shown to a bed, I lay down without undressing, and slept till six in the evening, was called to supper, went to bed again very early, and slept soundly till next morning. Then I made myself as tidy as I could, and went to Andrew Bradford, the printer's.

MEMOIR Continued.— Compiled from various sources. Franklin obtained employment in Keimer's printing house, but returned to Boston in 1724, which he soon left again, with the approbation and blessing of his parents, and the promise of help, if needed, to set him up in business, on attaining the age of twenty-one. On his way he stopped at Newport* to visit his brother John, who followed the business of a printer there; and in New York visited, by invitation, Gov. Burnet, who was interested in learning from the captain of the vessel that he had many books with him. Soon after reaching Philadelphia, he was induced by Sir William Keith to set up a printing office of his own, and for this purpose, without due consideration, on the assurance of pecuniary

At Newport he received authority from Mr. Vernon to receive some money (301. currency) due him in Pennsylvania ; the money was collected but not remitted promptly—a source of moch regret, one of the orrata,' which he would correct in a second edition of his life.

aid and letters of introduction from Governor Keith, he repaired to London to purchase type and other outfit.

Finding himself in London, without friends or letters of introduction, he at once accepted the situation,' entered the printing office of Palmer in Bartholomew Close, and afterward of Watts' near Lincoln's Inn-earning good wages, which he spent thoughtlessly, acting as other young men are apt to do, who are away from the restraints of home and surrounding friends. But here his native superiority and his power of will asserted themselves—he put himself at the head of his fellow workmen, he broke away from bad habits when made conscious of their power over him, employed his pen in writing for the press, secured the reading of good books, and made the acquaintance of several remarkable literary characters, such as Dr. Pemberton, the friend of Newton, Dr. Mandeville, author of the Fable of the Bees, Sir Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museuin, and Sir William Windham, who sought his acquaintance from learning his wonderful feats in swimming, which the statesman wished his sons to learn, before they set out on their travels on the continent. Of his mode of life in London he got tired, was homesick, and gladly accepted the offer of Mr. Denham, who was his fellow passenger over, to return with him as clerk, in which capacity be served before leaving London, and for a few months after his return-acquiring thereby a knowledge of bookkeeping and of trade generally.

In 1727, after the death of Mr. Denham which broke up the business, Franklin took charge of Keimer's printing office, into which he soon introduced order, and out of the most promising of the workmen and other personal friends, formed the celebrated club, or debating society, the Junto, on the plan of Cotton Mather's Benefit Societies, and the methods of his Essays to do Good. In the prosecution of Keimer's business, he spent several months in Burlington, acquiring as usual new friends among the members of the Assembly, and in other government positions, by his intelligence and social qualities. In 1728, he went into business first with Hugh Meredith, and after July 30, 1730, on his own account.

On his voyage homeward in 1726, aged twenty, he formed the plan of his future life based on, (1.) Frugal living; (2.) Perfect truthfulness in every word and action; (3.) Patient industry; (4.) Charity in speech toward all men-principles to which he rigidly adhered and to which he attributed his prosperity, influence, and usefulness in life.

On the 1st of September, 1730, Benjamin Franklin was married to Deborah Reed-his first love of a serious kind, which did not run smooth in its first course, with him or her, but which made a home precious to both after each had tried the folly of living apart after being assured of each other's affection. He was a faithful, tender, and considerate husband, although he brought into his new home a child (the future Governor of New Jersey) born to him out of wedlock, the name of whose mother was never known. She proved a devoted, generous, and faithful wife, the mother of two fine children, one of whom, Francis Folger, died in his fourth year, and the other a daughter, Sarah, who became, Oct. 29, 1767, the wife of Richard Bache, and whose descendants numbered in 1866 one hundred and ten.

Franklin as a Business Man.

• Franklin was an active business man in Philadelphia for just twenty years—from 1728 to 1748. He was printer, editor, compiler, publisher, bookseller, bookbinder, and stationer. He made lampblack and ink; he dealt in rags; he sold soap and live-geese feathers. One of his advertisements of 1735, offers very good sack at 6 shillings a gallon;' and he frequently announces, that he has coffee for sale and other household articles. His shop was the source of news, and the favorite haunt of the inquisitive and public-spirited.'*

In Dec. 28, 1728, the Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences, and the Pennsylvania Gazette,' was begun by Keimer; and in the month following, Franklin began in Bradford's Mercury, a series of papers in the manner of the Spectator, entitled “Busy-Body;' and in March of 1729 published a paper on the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency,' which contains remarks on the nature of money, labor as the standard of value, and the principle of self-adjustment in commercial affairs when unobstructed by unwise legislation, worthy of Adam Smith. In October, following, he came into possession of Keimer's paper, which he published and edited for ten years thereafter with the title reduced to Pennsylvania Gazette which he made for the period a model newspaper, a medium for making known wants of all kinds, with reading suitable for the counting-house, and the fireside--for old and young.

In 1731, he projected the plan of a social and subscription library. Fifty persons subscribed forty shillings each, and agreed to pay ten shillings annually; and for this were entitled to take books to their homes. In 1742, this company was incorporated by the name of “The Library Company of Philadelphia.' The Swede, Prof. Kalm, who was there in 1748, says that then the parent library had given rise

• Parton's Life of Franklin.

to many little libraries,' on the same plan as itself. He also says that non-subscribers were then allowed to take books out of the library, by leaving a pledge for the value of the book, and paying for a folio eight pence a week, for a quarto sixpence, and for all others four pence. The subscribers,' he says, ' were so kind to me as to order the librarian, during my stay here, to lend me every book I should want, without requiring any payment of me.' In 1764, the shares had risen in value to nearly twenty pounds, and the collection was considered to be worth seventeen hundred pounds. In 1785, the number of volumes was 5,487; in 1807, 14,457; in 1875, 100,000.

In 1732, he began to print his Almanac, commonly called Poor Richard's Almanac, which he continued for twenty-five years. His inventive and beneficent genius imparted to this species of publication a new character—that of a code of prudentials for all classes of society, and especially for the common people. The collection of aphorisms which he prefixed to the Almanac of 1757, and which bears a title too contracted for its scope, has been styled, by an eminent writer, the best treatise extant, both of public and private economy. It had a prodigious success, was translated into many foreign languages, was spread as well over Europe as North America, and remains still unrivaled for the purposes which it was meant to promote. Franklin gave his newspaper a similar direction; he conducted it not in the spirit of a tradesman or an incendiary, but in that of an apostle of letters and morals. He wrote for it pointed ethical discourses, enriched it with literary selections, and scrupulously excluded from it all libeling and personal abuse.'

In 1733, Franklin began the study of languages, and soon learned to read French, Italian, and Spanish. His progress in Italian was promoted by his love of the game of chess. A friend, who was also learning the Italian, often lured him from his books by challenging him to play at this game. At length, he refused to play any more except upon condition the victor should impose a task upon the vanquished, such as learning a verb or writing a translation, which task should be performed before the next meeting. As they played about equally, they beat one another into the acquisition of the Italian language. His acquisition of Latin was in this wise: Looking over a Latin Testament, one day, he was surprised to find that his knowledge of the three modern languages, together with his dim recollection of his year's study of Latin at the Boston grammar school, enabled him to read the Latin Testament with considerable facility. He became convinced that the true order of acquiring languages is, the modern first, and the ancient afterward. We are told,' he says, 'that it is proper to begin first with the Latin, and, having acquired that, it will be more easy to attain those modern languages which are derived from it; and yet we do not begin with the Greek in order more easily to acquire the Latin.' 'I would, therefore,' he adds, offer it to the consideration of those who superintend the education of our youth, whether-since many of those who begin with the Latin, quit the same after spending some years without having made any great proficiency, and what they have learned becomes almost useless, so that their time has been lost-it would not have been better to have begun with the French, proceeding to the Italian and Latin. For though, after spending the same time, they should quit the study of languages and never arrive at the Latin, they would, however, have acquired another tongue or two, that, being in modern use, might be serviceable to them in common life.' Music is mentioned by Franklin as a diversion, but he pursued it with more than the devotion of an ordinary amateur. He appears to have played on several instruments, and to have studied their nature and powers. The harp, the guitar, the violin, and the violoncello, appear to bave been the instruments be most affected, until, later in life, he improved the armonica. Leigh Hunt, whose parents once lived at Philadelphia, mentions that Franklin offered to teach his mother the guitar.

In 1736, he was promoted to the office of clerk in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, and the following year to the more lucrative one of postmaster of Philadelphia. His prosperity at this time enabled him to prosecute several schemes for the municipal improvement of the city. Among these were the reformation of the city watch, the paving and lighting of the streets, the organization of fire companies, and a fire insurance office. He had a large share in the establishment of the Pennsylvania hospital;* in his efforts to found an academy, with an English school in 1749, he may be considered the founder of the University of Pennsylvania; and his Circular in 1743 to his correspondents in different parts of the country suggesting their associating together for conference and correspondence on subjects that increase the power of man over matter, and multiply the conveniences or pleasures of life,' led to the establishment of the American Philosophical Society.

In 1741, he invented the open stove which bore bis name, and wrote a pamphlet explanatory of its construction and utility; but

* The idea of establishing a hospital in Philadelphia belongs to Dr. Thomas Bond, who, meeting with little encouragement, came to Franklin-- For I am often asked-Have you consulted Franklin on this business ? and what does he think of it?' Franklin took the work in hand, obtained subscriptions, and secured its success by a grant of 2,0001. from the Assembly.

« PreviousContinue »